Amid the ongoing Senate investigation on the alleged sale of good conduct time allowance (GCTA) credits for the early release of prisoners at the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), Senator Bong Go bared another alleged anomaly in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
“We have received reports that some inmates were moved into the New Bilibid Prison Hospital by faking their illness and buying the so-called ’hospital referral pass’ from BuCor employees,” Go said during the resumption of the Senate hearing on the GCTA controversy.
“Nagpapanggap na may sakit para ma-admit sa ospital, pagkatapos doon na nagaganap ang illegal drug trading. Hindi lang pala ang GCTA ang for sale. Pati na rin ang hospital pass, for sale rin pala sa Bilibid (They are faking illness to be admitted in the hospital, and the illegal drug trade is being carried out there. Even the hospital pass is now for sale in Bilibid),” the legislator said.
“The hospital established in the prison compound is now being abused and tarnished.”
The lawmaker pointed out that the hospital was established in the prison compound for humanitarian reasons, and yet it is now being abused and tarnished.
“Is it true that the hospital inside the NBP is now being used for drug transactions where drug lords come and go even if they have no illness? Is it also true that big-time drug lords are the ones frequently requesting to be confined at the NBP Hospital?” the senator asked BuCor and Department of Justice (DOJ) officials.
He also asked prison officials who recommend the hospital confinement of inmates and if regular inspections of the NBP Hospital are being done.
Go also wanted to know how many inmates are currently confined in the NBP Hospital and how many of them are convicted for illegal drugs.
In response, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has assured lawmakers that the DOJ will look into the complaints on the alleged anomalies in the issuance of hospital passes.
Guevarra said that while the BuCor is now headed by Deputy Director General Melvin Buenafe in an acting capacity, the DOJ has also formed an oversight committee for the BuCor so “there will be close supervision over what is going on at the BuCor at this critical time” when a new chief has not yet been appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
As for the hospital passes, the justice chief said the DOJ is “very much aware about the procedure,” admitting that hospital passes, in fact, “go all the way up to the DOJ.”
“But they come with certifications with all the necessary documentations, like the doctor certification, the certification that the treatment is not available within the medical facilities of the BuCor and so on,” the justice head said.
“If these are fake or not is something that will have to be looked into.”
“But as to the matter if these are fake or not is something that will have to be looked into. We will do that probably with the help of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI),” he stressed.
Senator Richard Gordon agreed that the DOJ should investigate the matter, suggesting that records for the NBP Hospital should be computerized for better monitoring of prisoners being confined in the medical facility.
“This can be solved with a computerized system where you know exactly where the prisoners are on any given time, all the time,” the chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee said.
“If somebody is in a hospital, you can see how many times he’s been there and for what diseases. Ages shall be shown as well,” Gordon said.